Thursday, January 12, 2017

Heat yourself and not everything around you

Happy 2017!  Christmas is now over and we have officially rang in the New Year a couple of weeks ago.  A lot of people start thinking that spring is just around the corner; but honestly winter has only just begun.  We still have almost 2 more months of potentially cold weather, bringing us some snow and ice storms, before the earth starts waking up and smiling at us with flowers.  And here in the midwest, this weekend is supposed to bring us some potential ice storms.

Since we are human beings and biological creatures, maintaining body temperature is of constant importance and we use shelter to do this.  Shelter is one of the most important concerns one must address when in any situation, albeit survival or just in our everyday lives.  Shelter, which also includes our clothing and not just the structure around us, is something we constantly use whether we actually realize it or not.

For the past few generations we have become accustomed to heating everything around us, when in fact the only thing that is important, is to heat ourselves.  Central heating (and cooling) are relatively new concepts.  In the past people used to just heat themselves, versus trying to heat the whole volume of air inside their homes.  Below is an example of a Korean "ondol" ("heated stone"), in which a fire was built on one side, where gases and heat would travel underneath and would warm the platform, where one could sit on top.  

By Harry A. Franck - by Harry A. Franck, copyright 1923 by The Century Company of New York and London. It is out of copyright., PD-US,

And here is another example of a masonry heater from the mid-1800's

The point is, heat yourself and not everything else around you.

Potential ice storms are a real threat this weekend, and could really put you in a difficult situation with the potential that you could lose power and therefore your heat.  Unless you have a backup generator for your whole house or a wood burning fireplace (with a good enough quantity of wood to go along with it), you might have to think about warming yourself up inside your home if you were to loose power.  While your home's temperature might drop into the 50 or 60 degree temps with no power, 50 or 60 degrees inside your home is really cold if you have not experienced before.  

If you do lose power during an ice storm and you need to stay warm, think small.  You are going to want to isolate yourselves and your heat to smaller areas inside your home.  Remember all those forts and tents you built as a child?  Tap into your inner-child and build yourselves enclosures to stay in to trap warmth.  This can be obtained by hanging blankets or sheets to isolate one or more rooms to trap heat in this one particular area.  Also, if the sun is shining (which it typically is post-storm,) open all the southern facing blinds or curtains in your home and let the sun provide you some free heating, while trapping it in this room.  And after the sun sets, close your blinds and curtains to retain this heat.  If you have sleeping bags, use them.  Also, isolate yourself from the floor with blankets and pillows.  And of course put on some clothes... 

If you do have a small propane or kerosene heater, remember to crack a window.  People that panic and use open flames in their homes are opening themselves up to carbon monoxide poisoning and risking the chance of burning down their homes.  AND DO NOT GO TO SLEEP with a flame burning, as you might never wake back up.  

And absolutely do not use your BBQ grill for heat.  There are many reports after an ice storm of people dying due to using their charcoal grill indoors. 

Even if you are not affected by ice storms this weekend, take a day or two and practice what would happen if you were to lose heat and/or electricity when the temperatures are below freezing.  Turn off your central heat, and your circuit breakers one weekend and practice before you have to figure it out while it is happening... and your family is complaining, and the kids are crying, and your spouse it yelling, and while you are trapped at home because the roads are iced over.  

It is also a good time to figure out if and how you can make coffee without power also.  Personally, I have five different methods... 

The point is to have a game plan, before you need to figure it out on the fly.